Sunday, November 18, 2007


Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

I ordered my turkey and picked up my non-perishables. I have to get my turkey on Tuesday and the perishables on Wednesday. I also have to pick up another bag of stuffing bread, since the Darkman ate one of the ones I bought last week. (Note- dogs should not eat that much bread, especially if you and the dog sleep in the same room. Ugh.)

How are your holiday plans coming?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mincemeat Cake

The Recipe

3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick butter (4 oz)
zest of 1 orange or tangerine
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 jar of mincemeat- I use None Such Brandy&Rum

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 scant Tbsp. orange or tangerine juice

Spray a Bundt pan with spray oil. Preheat oven to 350.

In medium bowl, whisk flour, powder & soda, and salt. In large mixer bowl, beat butter until light; add zest and sugar, beating until fluffy. Blend in eggs, one at a time. Slowly, add the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating between the two, beginning and ending with flour. After all flour has been incorporated, beat at least 30 sec. on medium speed. Add 1/2 jar of mincemeat; mix in by hand if using beaters, or on lowest speed if using a paddle on a stand mixer, until incorporated.

Pour about 2/3 of the batter in the Bundt pan and spread evenly. Top batter with remaining mincemeat, then top that with remaining batter. Bake 1 hour and then check; bake until cake tester (toothpick) comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then gently invert cake out onto a rack to finish cooling. Let cool a minimum of 20 more minutes, but an hour is better.

Mix tangerine juice into sifted powdered sugar; drizzle over cake to glaze.

The Story

Several years ago I bought a jar of mincemeat which had a little booklet attached full of recipes. One picture was of a beautiful coffee cake baked in a tube pan, filled with mincemeat and topped with a struesel topping. It looked great and I had all the ingredients, so I decided to make it- only to discover very quickly that there had been a misprint. The picture and the recipe didn't match, and the recipe for the filled cake was nowhere to be found! I've made the coffee cake in the booklet, only to find that the struesel and the mincemeat don't match very well. With that one adjustment in mind, I set out to create a recipe similar to the one that was promised in the photo, and this is the result.

The measurement on the jar of mincemeat is 27 oz. Other brands that are around that amount should substitute well, but None Such is by far my favorite commercial brand. Use what you like. If you make your own- a friend of mine has done this, and it's wonderful- you'll need about 2 1/2 cups, divided evenly.

We've impaitently cut into this cake when it was still pretty hot, and we've regretted it. It really is much better when let to cool for a while.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Perfect Storm for Beer

We are brewin' up a storm of beer and meade right now, but that's not what I'm talking about, unfortunately.

When visiting our Friendly Neighborhood Brew Shop, we got the bad news. There's a worldwide shortage of hops right now. Jo-Ellen of Brewer's Apprentice described it as a "perfect storm" of conditions, and she wasn't kidding:

Panic among some brewers was heightened when a major supplier, Hop Union of Yakima, Wash., suspended sales for two weeks. Bad weather in Europe, as well as poor conditions in the Pacific Northwest, compounded by a devastating warehouse fire last year in Washington and fires at two hop-drying kilns this year, have translated into a 20 percent worldwide shortfall as demand for hoppier styles climbs, said Ian Isherwood, who represents British hop growers. Meanwhile, acreage planted to hops is dwindling.

The homebrew shops are feeling it immediately. Apparently there are limits to the quantity of certain hops, and other hops they simply can't get. There are no replacements available for styles that are unavailable, either- basically, they have to do without.

It gets worse. At the same time this is all happening to hops, malt prices are on the rise:

"A ton of malted barley is over $1,000 now," said Jürgen Knöller, brewmaster at Bayern Brewery in Missoula. "Six months ago, a ton of barley was $460."The giant leap in malted barley prices is due, in large part, to several years of poor harvests, devastating droughts in barley-producing areas such as Australia, and to the fact that despite Montana being one of the best barley-growing regions in North America, barley is a commodity.

It all adds up to beer price increases with shortages of favorite styles. I expect the small craft brewers will have it the worst, because I'm sure the Budwisers and the Coors conglomerates aren't going to have to do without their hop orders- it'll be the little guys who get hit.

My advice for those who love well-crafted beer: stock up now on Hop Devil, 90-Minute IPA, CascaZilla, and all those other seriously hoppy brews; now, while you still can. (Brew your own as soon as possible, too- that's what we're doing!) Then, settle in for a few years of less hoppy styles that cost a couple more bucks a six- and wait out the storm.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Vegetable Dal

The Recipe

1 cup brown lentils (see note)
1 T. canola oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. ajwain (very optional)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 potato, diced
1 small green chile, seeds removed if you prefer
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
a handful (about 2 tbsp.) flaked coconut

Put lentils in small saucepan; cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 min, until really tender. Don't bother to drain.

Heat oil in large skillet; add mustard seeds and ajwain, stir a couple of times, then add your onion, carrot, potato and celery. Cook until they start to brown. Add the lentils, tumeric and the chile to the skillet; stir and cook until the dal it the consistency you want, adding water if necessary. Salt at this point, then add the coconut, stir and serve.

The Story

I had intended to make a cabbage dal from a book, but my cabbage had disappeared! I guess it must have been tossed out by accident. Having to improvise, this is what I invented, and it was a hit. You could also probably do this with any other variety of lentil; just adjust the cooking time as needed. We like the dal pretty mushy but not quite pureed, but it's your dinner so make it how you want.

Goes really well with naan or any flatbread. Any good Indian cookbook has recipes to make whole-wheat versions at home. I serve this with an Indian vegetable dish too.

Ajwain is a Pakastani seed which, as Penzey's Spices puts it, helps "temper the effects of a legume-based diet." It's tasty, too. I doubt most folks have it hangin' around the spice cabinet though, and you won't miss it if it's not there. It adds an anise-like flavor and while I've no proof that it aids in, um, the digestion of beans- it doesn't hurt.

I've found plain frozen grated coconut in the Latin section of my grocery store. If you don't have it, the sweetened kind will do; since there's not very much, it adds a negligible amount of sweetness to the dish.